Protect yourself from scammersPublished 6:01pm Thursday, November 17, 2011
Scammers, those lowest of the low, continue to ply their trade and update their skills in order to prey on us.
While the scams were once targeted to unsuspecting and vulnerable individuals, they have gotten so sophisticated that anyone is a potential victim.
In recent weeks we have heard of the “grandparent scam” being used on two different local families. In one case the caller pretended to be a grandson-in-law, who is in the Air Force, stationed overseas.
The “grandson-in-law” went on to say that he and his friend were fishing in Barcelona when they were arrested and placed in jail for not having fishing licenses. They needed $2,000 for bail. The man on the phone provided contact phone numbers and also numbers for Western Union in case they needed help in making the transfer.
Being the good people the grandparents are, they couldn’t let the young men stay in jail and therefore wired the money. It was only after they had wired the money and they wanted to make sure that the money got there that things began to fall apart.
The call to Western Union to ensure the money got there revealed there was no one there by the name they had been given. The money was gone and the sad reality is the perpetrators will probably never be caught.
In August the BBB issued a RED ALERT regarding this new twist on the Grandparent Scam and under the circumstances I think we should share it again.
According to the BBB the scam involves the caller already knowing detailed information regarding family members. In addition, the calls are not targeted strictly at seniors and the money requested is to be wired.
The scammers’ basic tactic is to pose as a grandchild and let the unsuspecting grandparent fill in the blanks. For example, the scam caller might say, “It’s me, your favorite grandchild,” to which the grandparent will guess the name of the grandchild it sounds the most like and then the call proceeds from there.
In the updated scam, callers identify themselves by specific name as a particular family member. They lace their conversation with correct references by name to other family members, increasing their credibility. One caller even knew that the real person being impersonated had a twin who was born two minutes later.
Law enforcement officials contacted by the BBB are not certain how perpetrators are obtaining the inside knowledge or phone numbers for victims.
Victims of this scam are encouraged to come forward and report it through a new feature on the BBB home page called Scam Source and then click on “Spot a Scam?” to report it.
Victims should also file a complaint with the police department and their regional FBI office. An impostor scam can also be reported to the FTC at www.ftc.gov or 1-877-FTC-HELP. If the money was wired to Canada, contact the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre (formerly Phonebusters) at www.antifraudcentre.ca or 888 495-8501.
To protect themselves from this scam, and other scams that may use a distressed-loved-one tactic, BBB is advising people to remain calm and confirm the status of the individual by calling them back directly or verifying the story with other family members.
The BBB also encourages people to limit the amount of personal information shared on social media sites and to only “friend” people they personally know themselves.
Protect yourself and your family by developing code words; it could save you a lot of heartache.